My photo
Burgess Hill, West Sussex, United Kingdom
I love patchwork and quilting; I love learning new techniques and perfecting the old ones, but most of all I enjoy passing on what I have learnt to others. The most important thing is that we all have loads of fun!

Find out what's going on in my Patchwork and Quilting world.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

More sewing - then passeggiata

Monday - More progress on the quilting projects.

Gill has moved on to machine sewing to attach the borders to her blocks.
Collette has finished her first tree and is starting the second.
Pat is putting her Mariner’s Compass together.

Alistair cooked fusilli with lemon, rocket and grilled cheese, for lunch, followed by a plateful of fresh fruit – strawberries, apricots and nectarines.

More sewing and a bit of swimming after lunch.
Gill is quilting her 'pocket' blocks; Collette has finished her second tree; Pat has started one of her extra blocks.

At 5:30pm we drove down into Spoleto and walked to the foot of the new escalator, which takes you to the top of the hill. When I say escalator, I really mean a series of eight escalators. It takes 8 minutes (yes, I counted and timed it!) to get to the top of the hill. However, this is a LOT quicker than walking!

At the top, we walked the pathway that runs around the castle walls, and walked half-way across the Ponte delle Torri which spans the gorge, for a fantastic view of the valley.

Back down the escalator, we picked up the car and drove through a maze of VERY narrow one way streets, with the car wing mirrors almost touching the walls on either side, back to Piazza Garibaldi.
Had a drink at two different bars - one getting rather noisy as all the lads turned up to watch Italy vs Ireland on the big screen TV, so we moved up the road to the quieter Alessandro’s, where we know the owner. On our way back to the car, we stopped off at a gelateria in the Piazza. The football match was just about to get underway, so there was a great moment when everyone in the bar was singing along to the Italian national anthem. I don’t know if you are familiar with it, but it is quite long and very rousing; a bit like a verse or two from an opera.

Easy on a Sunday morning....afternoon and evening

Sunday - Sewing again this morning.

The ladies are enjoying their hand sewing; they can sit out in the sun / shade and just pop back indoors when they need to press seams or cut out more fabric.
Progress is not as quick as machining, but is more relaxed and 'chilled out'.

Lunch was at a restaurant in a trout farm.
As we arrived, there was a chap scooping trout out of a holding tank to take into the restaurant for today’s lunch. Now that’s what I call fresh!

We ate outside, of course, and the restaurant is on a little island surrounded by streams of trout swimming by (and ducks and geese wandering about).
You have to walk through the trees and over little wooden bridges to get to your table – very quaint.
There were a few meat/vegetarian dishes on the menu, but we all chose fish, fish and more fish - freshwater and sea fish - washed down with sparkling wine and followed by pistachio semifreddo.

Back up to the villa; a 30 minute siesta and then sewing again into the evening, accompanied by wine and nibbles.

Gill is on the third pocket for her workshop bag.
Pat has done about three-quarters of her Mariner’s Compass.
Collette has finished the picket fence for her Umbria scene and has started on the pine trees.

Monday, 18 June 2012

A cooking lesson and a dip in the pool

Saturday - Sewing again in the morning.
The ladies are choosing to keep the pace slow, in keeping with the general atmosphere around here; no need to rush anything!
I had planned to cook my trademark risotto for lunch; Gill asked if I would show her how to do it, so she came in to help.

Risotto with pancetta, zucchini and mushrooms
Serves 2

olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
200g risotto rice (arborio or carnaroli)
100ml white wine
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
70g-100g diced pancetta or bacon lardons
150g zucchini/courgettes, diced into 1cm pieces
200g button mushrooms, quartered
knob of butter
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated parmesan

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan.
Fry the chopped onion until softened and then add the crushed garlic and fry for a further minute.
Add the rice and stir until coated with oil and slightly translucent.
Add the wine (it should make a nice ssssshhhhhhzzzzz noise) and stir until absorbed. Reduce the heat and add 100ml of stock.
Cook gently, stirring occasionally until the stock is absorbed.
Continue adding the stock, 100ml at a time, stirring from time to time to make sure the rice does not stick.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, fry the pancetta without any oil, until it releases its fat and starts to brown. Add 1 tbsp oil and then the mushrooms.
Cook until the mushrooms are browned, then add the zucchini and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and set aside until the rice is ready.

Check whether the rice is at the al dente stage. You may not need to add all the stock, or you may need to add a bit extra. The rice should be cooked but still very moist.

Stir a knob of butter and some freshly grated parmesan into the rice and then mix in the bacon, mushroom and zucchini mixture.

Serve with extra grated parmesan on top.

More sewing while they let their lunch go down and then down to the pool for a swim.
We had originally planned to go into Spoleto in the late afternoon for a walk round before going out of town to a restaurant for dinner, but they were enjoying their pool time so much they voted to postpone that trip until another day.
So they stayed by the pool until it was time to get ready to go out to dinner - Locanda Rovicciana.
We had a wonderful meal (I don’t think it’s possible to NOT have a wonderful meal out here!)
We ate a la carte, so I won’t go through what everyone had, but it was a great location again as you can see on this video.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Shop, Quilt, Eat

Friday morning and a couple of the ladies wanted to visit the weekly market in Spoleto. Plenty of souvenir shopping: presents for the grand-children; good quality, but reasonably-priced Italian-made clothes and leather goods; interesting gadgets for the kitchen:

More progress on the quilting projects after lunch and then we asked Alistair to cook us a BBQ for our evening meal. Stayed on the terrace/balcony all evening - food; wine; desserts; coffee; sunset and twinkling lights.

Italian Quilting Holiday - first few days

We've been here a few days now and have completely settled in. It really feels like home. Our quilting guests arrived just two days ago and already we have done so much.

The ladies were greeted at Rome airport by a very handsome young man called Alessandro who brought them in his Mercedes Minivan, up here to the Villa in the mountains above Spoleto, Umbria.
We had lunch waiting for them, which we ate outside; then came in for 20 mins to escape a short shower; but the sun quickly reappeared.

Pat sat sewing on the sunny balcony, Gill was drawing templates on the shady terrace and Collette was flitting backwards and forwards between the two, doing some design drawings to make a patchwork wall-hanging based on the view from the Villa.

Alistair cooked up some Chicken with Artichokes, Potatoes and Rosemary for dinner which we served with a green salad, followed by Tiramisu.

Thursday, we had a Quilting session from 10:00 until 1:00, when the ladies made further progress with their projects.
Alistair then had our lunch ready – some appetizers left over from the day before, plus some lovely little savoury bready-cheesy-bacony things that you warm up in the oven.
This was followed by gnocchi with wild mushrooms, sage and truffle oil.
After lunch there was more sewing time until about 4:30.
Time for a bike ride (for the energetic amongst us i.e. Alistair!) or a slow walk (for the rest of us) to the top of the hill to look at the view in the other direction.

At 7:30 pm we went to meet up with some other guests and a local man called Luciano, who led us to his house in a convoy of four cars, where his wife Daniella had cooked us a wonderful meal eaten al fresco under the olive trees.

A true Italian meal – it comes in dribs and drabs, so you just get a little bit of everything, but spread over the course of about 3 hours!
All the way through there is a constant supply of wine and water.
To start with: (just a spoonful of each, so you get a taster without getting full up)
Deep fried zucchini flowers with a ricotta filling (I think)
Pizza with prosciutto topping
Carne Misto (a kind of ‘mixed meat’ stew)
Zucchini stuffed with tuna in a tomato sauce
Then fresh, home-made pasta with a simple, but delicious tomato sauce
Followed by:
Pork and prunes
Side Salad (dressed with oil from their own olives)
And chunks of Slow-roasted Lamb
And finally:
And Limoncello
It was 23:45 and the twinkling fire-flies were out competing with the stars by the time we had finished.
Got back to the Villa just after midnight.